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The Happening Is Still Happening
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The Area 51 Raid Theory Of Internet Mobilization
Here’s the thing about how online mobilization works: By the time you’re seeing it happen in real life, all the networking has already happened. To stop a frenzy right now, moderation would have had to have been deployed months ago.
With any large-scale digital movement that becomes physical, first, connections are usually made in big public Facebook groups. Physical events are organized with Facebook events and users begin working towards them. Public updates about what’s happening within the movement or community are transmitted via Twitter feeds. And YouTube acts as an adjacent eduction and recruitment tool. Meanwhile, smaller more intense networks are built around these events on dark social on platforms like Discord, messaging apps, and in DMs. And then, whatever cataclysmic moment the community has been building towards happens. Once it does, all the content created during the physical event is reuploaded online and used as a further recruitment tool. This is true for fandom conventions, incel mass shootings, the siege of the Capitol Building, hypebeast product drops, and the 2019 Area 51 raid.
The ongoing success of the movement or community is determined by how viral the post-event content tail is. Stop The Steal has already succeeded in that regard. 8chan vikings and terrorist militia members were able to create such an incredible amount of content from Wednesday’s insurrection that our feeds are still awash in images and videos of it.
What’s still unclear, though, is whether or not the actual event that the months of hype have been building towards has actually happened yet or if we’re still, very much, in it. To put things in perspective, the Yellow Vest movement in France started with one viral Facebook event and was able to continue for 26 weeks based off the viral inertia.
We’re also still not even sure what the full scope of the plan even was for last week. Rep. Liz Cheney, in a statement yesterday, said “more will become clear in the coming days and weeks.” Thanks to scraped Parler data, we know that Trump supporters made it extremely far inside the Capitol Building in a very short amount of time, where they smashed up specific offices and smeared their own shit on the walls. We also now know that if wasn’t for some very quick thinking from a very brave police officer, the raging mob would have descended on a full Senate chambers and, most likely, killed them.
Most horrifying of all are the allegations being made right now by members of congress about how much of Wednesday’s violence may have been premeditated. Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s chief of staff Sarah Groh told The Boston Globe that the panic buttons had been ripped out of Pressley’s desk at some point before the Trump supporters breached the Capitol building.
New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill, during a livestream last night, alleged members of Congress gave soon-to-be insurrectionists “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol Building days before the siege began.
Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn told talk show host Joe Madison that Trump supporters targeted an office he uses that isn’t labeled at all. “My office, if you don't know where it is, you ain't going to find it by accident,” he said. “They went into that other place where I do most of my work. They showed up there, harassing my staff. How did they know to go there? Why didn't they go where my name was?”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal told The Cut that the complete lack of security on Wednesday was highly suspicious. And Rep. Susan Wild told Elle she’s struggling to understand exactly how Trump supporters like Baked Alaska were able to quickly make their way to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office when she still has trouble locating it.
It’s quickly becoming clear that the scope and scale of Wednesday was much larger than it seemed at first. There’s also a chance that, regardless of what apps we take offline now, we’ve already reached a point where all the online networking needed to disrupt the inauguration next week — or worse — has already happened.
Now, Trump’s most violent supporters have set up shop on messaging app Telegram following Parler’s deplatforming and this weekend’s Twitter purges. The app is attempting to deal with the influx of new radicalized users, but it won’t be easy for the company to nuke them all.
A few Telegram channels used by far-right extremists — part of a network sometimes referred to as “terrorgram” — were banned this week. HateLab, one of the biggest violent white nationalist communities on the app, being one of them. But on Tuesday, it was reported that Telegram received 25 million new downloads in the last 72 hours, likely due to backlash over WhatsApp’s changing security policy. The app isn’t just AIM for Nazis. It’s huge and used by people all over the world. And it can’t just be kicked off various app stores wholesale like Parler was.
On Monday, for brevity’s sake, I described Telegram as a “Russian WhatsApp competitor.” The truth is the app’s sociopolitical role is a lot more complicated than that. It was created by VK founder Pavel Durov. The company was based in Russia, but is now based in Dubai. (It doesn’t have a great relationship with the Kremlin.) It’s a crucial tool for all kinds of protest movements. I first encountered it a few years ago in Barcelona, where Catalan separatists were using it to mobilize a referendum on seceding from Spain.
The current terrorgram boom is unsettling and think it’s important that pressure is put on Telegram to shut these huge extremist cells down. But it may not require much more digital organization to keep the movement going.
Armed National Guard members have already been deployed to secure Washington in the lead up to next week’s inauguration. The FBI is currently warning that armed violence could manifest in all 50 state capitols. And according to a truly bone-chilling Huff Post report this week, House Democrats were briefed by Capitol Police on three more possible insurrection plots in the works — one of which included executing Democrats on the lawn of the Capitol Building.
4chan uses a term for moments like this. They call it “a happening,” it’s a vague, but useful term to describe the hyperreal experience of watching a physical event play out on digital spaces. Last Wednesday was a happening — possibly the biggest ever — and there’s a good chance we’re still in it.
“Are you wearing th-“ “The chanel boots? Maybe?”
Chances are you’ve seen some version of the Chanel boots meme. It’s based off a line from Devil Wears Prada. It’s been kicking around forever. My favorite version is the Johnny Cash post. At some point the Star Wars fandom — specifically, the nice good one that exists on Tumblr, not the horrible bad one that exists on Reddit — latched on to the meme. Fans realized that the black boots that Luke Skywalker wears in Return Of The Jedi look like they could be Chanel.
It’s a very cute. Every once in a while, fans try and confirm whether or not Luke Skywalker’s boots were ACTUALLY Chanel. I mean, it was the 80s, anything’s possible.
This week, Mark Hamill responded to a question about it. And, apparently, the jury’s still out!
Please Don’t Wear Your Hentai Face Mask On TV
This was sent to me by my buddy Jules. My extremely bad French isn’t good enough to know what this interview is about. But the mask, I can explain. That pattern is called the “ahegao face” and it’s had a pretty big year. Ahegao is term for the exaggerated expression of pleasure that appears in Japanese hentai. It’s had a weirdly big year. Last May, I wrote about how there was an ahegao bodysuit you could buy on Amazon.
Right before the pandemic, I rode the subway next to a guy wearing an ahegao shirt. He was very publicly reading hentai too. It was like two in the afternoon. I’m still completely shaken by the experience. It haunts me.
Anyways, please don’t wear your anime porn face mask on TV. Thank you.
Minecraft YouTube Isn’t Slowing Down Because Of The Coup
Just because the country is in complete free fall doesn’t mean you should give up on your dream of being a Minecraft Let’s Play infuencer. Shoot your shot, king.
The Platforms Still Aren’t Taking This Very Seriously I Think
A few odds and ends here for those of you trying to keep track of what the big three are doing following the siege on the capitol.
On Monday, Facebook said that “Stop The Steal” content would be removed from their platform. They also finally banned Ali Alexander, the organizer of the Stop The Steal movement. Based on a few cursory searches I did this morning, it seems like the more obvious coup-related search terms have finally been blocked.
Which is great! Except, also this week, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg flat out denied Facebook had anything to do with the coup while speaking at a conference on Tuesday.
“I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don't have our abilities to stop hate, and don't have our standards, and don't have our transparency,” said the woman who works for the company that actually quite literally hosted the events that led to last week’s coup.
Over on Twitter, QAnon is effectively gone. The company is reporting it removed 70,000 accounts since Friday. While a lot of slightly-less dangerous conservatives are now griping about free speech, the purge seems to have had an overall calming effect on the platform. Funny how that works.
And, finally, uh, YouTube has banned Trump’s channel for seven days lol. Nice one, guys. That’ll teach him. When he’s allowed to upload content again, he will discover that he has gained 100,000 new subscribers since the coup began.
Just As Christopher Nolan Intended…
Maybe Tenet makes more sense on a tiny screen!
A Good Reddit Question About Aliens
So, I went over to r/Aliens today to check it out and I would actually highly caution against visiting it. It seems like the CIA’s release of the “Black Vault” UFO documents this week has really ratcheted up the crazy over there. Lots of talk of “aquatic humanoids” going on.
The comments under this post, though, are pretty fun.
The New 2021 Anthem: Normies Are Getting Creative
Wait, No, Maybe This Is The New 2021 Anthem
P.S. here’s some good sea shanty content.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***